Crash and Burn (Hoka One One Bondi 5 Long Term Review and Warning)
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
About 2 years ago, I thought I'd give jogging yet another try (as a lot of us do from time to time), and I guess this gave me the excuse to splurge on a new pair of jogging shoes. I tested quite a few of the popular ones, the New Balances, the Nike's, the Adidas', you name it.
The last time I tried the jogging thing was probably 9 years ago, and I did my research on which running shoes would become the ones that would support my fat ass. After trying the different brands, I found that New Balance had the best support and cushioning for my large and unwieldy frame. And it worked out well for me then.
Fast forward to 2 years ago, and I started my research again, but this time I was interested to know if there was a running shoe that would even surpass my old New Balance shoes for cushioning. And that, I did, in the form of the Hoka One One Bondi 5.
I could hardly believe it when I tried them on for the first time. It was like walking on a cloud of air support that even Nike couldn't even hope to achieve.
As you check out the photos above, you will probably notice that this shoe isn't going to win any style contests any time soon, if ever. I did kind of realise that these shoes made me look a little like a sporty clown, with oversized platform-like shoes. But the support was unreal.
This blog post is going to be part long-term review of the Bondi 5 and also a warning. I'll come to that a little later.
So here are the great things about these Bondi 5 shoes after having run in them for the past 2 years.
They are really hardy. I am not a hard-core runner (more like slow ambling jogger) by any means, and they say if you run a lot, you should change to new shoes after about 400-500km. I have however, used these as my primary shoes for jogging for the better part of 2 years now, mostly on paved paths and roads, and the treads show very little signs of wear.
Their level of cushioning is EPIC. There is no other shoe on the market that cushions like this shoe. If there is, I haven't tried em. Every time I end my run, it's because I am an unfit fat ass who's run out of breath, NOT because my feet have started hurting.
Now here are the things that are not so great and this includes a safety warning.
I look like I'm wearing Dutch clogs when I wear them.
They feel like platform shoes. In order to achieve the unreal cushioning that it is known for, the midsole has to be thicker than other shoes, and this results in instability. Do not use these for trail running. And even if you use this on paved surfaces, you should be careful. See SAFETY WARNING below.
Also, due to the extra material that makes up the midsole, these shoes are relatively heavier than the average running shoe.
Due to the platform nature of the midsole, this shoe is not very flexible.
Also due to the thickness of the midsole, the runner will not feel "connected" to the running surface.
The Hoka Bondi series was built for maximum cushioning for runners who are a little on the heavy side, who need extra cushioning for their joints. On that front, this shoe performs remarkably well. This is not a shoe for seasoned runners who probably prefer speed, and lower run times, rather than superior cushioning. This shoe will just weigh them down. Hoka have the Bondi 6 now, but it still seems to have the same profile as my Bondi 5, so I think the characteristics of this shoe are still somewhat similar to the Bondi 5.
Due to the thick midsole of the Bondi series, you feel like you're running in platform shoes, and if there is even the slightest lateral unevenness of on the surface on which you're running, that gets amplified by your high centre of gravity. So this shoe is a no-no for trail running. It is after all, a road running shoe.
However, much to my personal dismay, this thick midsole is not well-suited to forefoot or mid-foot strikers, especially when you start to develop a more efficient stride, where you don't lift your feet that high off the ground. This is because the midsole, being as thick as it is, causes you to lose a feeling of 'connectedness' with the ground and there is even a slight unevenness in the pavement, you may trip over it....as I did.....TWICE! The first time this rather embarrassing incident happened was a year ago at my condo, right in front of the security guards who, after making sure I was alright, probably silently chuckled at what they had just witnessed.
This time, I totally crashed and burned at a sidewalk in full view of cars coming in the opposite direction....Don't know which hurt more, the bruises to my leg or to my ego.
Amidst the tiny shock of falling on my face for the world to see, I couldn't find the part of the sidewalk that caused my fall from grace....so I continued my run.
The next day I went for another run and stopped at the general area to check what it was that could have tripped me up and I found it.
This is the culprit.
If you are a heel striker, then your foot will be pointed a little higher moving forward in your stride, making it less likely for you to trip over something. If you're a forefoot striker like me...you have to adjust your stride to minimise the possibility of getting tripped up.
So if you are using this shoe on paved surfaces, you still need to keep a lookout for uneven surfaces on your running path, and certainly, any thing that may trip you up.
Even so, I still have to stay that the Bondi 5 has been a really great pair of running shoes for me, because it has lasted so long, and while it has caused me some pain (see bruise photos above for proof), my relationship with this shoe is still one of affection...after all, aren't all great love affairs worth a little pain?